Does eating dietary fat make you fat?

Fat.

What do you think of when you hear this word?

The word fat tends to have a negative connotation attached to it. After years of being exposed to diet culture, I’ll be honest and tell you that my mind used to instantly go to body fat. Now that I have reframed how I perceive dietary fat, I no longer fear it and actually embrace this macronutrient. Now, I tend to think of dietary fat as nutrient-dense energy that fuels and nourishes my body. I also start day dreaming of my favorite foods that contain fat- avocado, nuts and nut butters, and seeds. Yum!

Try reframing in this moment by saying, “Fat is a nutrient that makes food taste good, nourishes my body, and keeps me alive and well!”. Go ahead. Say it out loud. There ya go! šŸ™Œ Ā Because that’s what it does. Just like carbs, fat should NOT be demonized. It is called a macronutrient for a reason. Macro, meaning large, and nutrient meaning nourishing our bodies. We just need to educate ourselves on how much our bodies need and from what sources. Let’s get started!

Starting with the basics, I’m going to break down two types of fat for you: saturated vs. unsaturated fat. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature (think butter, coconut oil, or animal fat). They contain single bonds that make the substance stable, which means it doesn’t oxidize easily. Therefore, this fat also takes longer to decompose. Saturated fat builds up in the blood vessels and arteries over time, especially when consumed in excess, leading to atherosclerosis and heart disease.Ā The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that a healthy individual eat <10% saturated fat of their total daily intake, while one at risk for heart disease consumes <7%.

Unsaturated fats are less stable and prone to oxidation and rancidity. So why are unsaturated fats favorable? Unsaturated fats do not clog your arteries like saturated fat does. It breaks down easier, and many monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats actually have heart health protective qualities (in addition to other health benefits). You heard that right!

In short, as long as you stay within the macronutrient range of 20-35% total daily intake of a healthy mix of fats, with <10% of saturated fat (<7% for those at risk for heart disease), your body should utilize that fat for essential bodily processes. So no, consuming fat does not make you fat, as long as you eat a variety of fats in a balanced manner. Note: some athletes or individuals with medical conditions may need MORE fat in their diet. When I was marathon training, my average daily fat intake was up to 40% because I was burning through so much energy.

I think the fear of dietary fat came from misinformation, but also the myth that dietary fat converts directly into stored fat on our body as adipose tissue. This is FALSE!

Other functions of fat include:

  • temperature regulation (insulation)
  • energy storage
  • makes up the lipid membrane of the cell and other bodily structures
  • aids in fat-soluble vitamin absorption
  • neuroprotective
  • cushions and protects our vital organs
  • are precursor to hormone production & secretion
  • omega-3s are anti-inflammatory

The list goes on!

As you can glean from the above, dietary fat is crucial to maintain life and a truly healthy body. There are even minimum amounts of body fat men and women should possess for health, especially women and maintaining their menses monthly (now recognized as the fifth pillar of health). This number varies with gender, age and other factors.

Fat-free diets that were followed by our parents are not the answer or way to go! Sure, some people with medical conditions may need to monitor their fat intake a little more closely than others, but once again, aim to stay within the macro range of 20-35%, and you’re good. Furthermore, the quality of fats you’re consuming DO matter.

Some great dietary fat choices include:

  • avocados
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • tahini (ground sesame that is used in hummus and now many dressings)
  • olive oil
  • olives
  • ghee (not for those limiting saturated fat though)
  • avocado oil
  • fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies)
  • full-fat, organic Greek yogurt or kefir (the reason I recommend organic for full-fat animal products is because toxins can be stored in animal fat)
  • cheese
  • eggs
  • coconut- coconut oil is fine but be mindful of serving size

In fact, you will want to be mindful with most dietary fat servings. It’s easy to overdo it, but that doesn’t mean you have to count the nuts and seeds you consume. That’s an easy road to forming disordered eating patterns. Just be aware and educate yourself (or seek education from me!) on what average portions look like.

I do suggest incorporating fat at most meals and sometimes snacks, for satiation purposes, among other reasons mentioned above. It just depends on what your particular diet and lifestyle look like. Once again, I am happy to help in any way I can, so if you have questions, feel free to reach out or schedule a nutrition consultation with me HERE.

How much protein should I consume?

Another common question in nutrition is: How much protein do I need? Before I break this down for you, let’s start with what protein is.

Protein is one of the three macronutrients, alongside carbohydrates and fat. It is composed of amino acids, it’s building blocks. There are 20 amino acids that we focus on: 9 essential amino acids and 11 nonessential. Essential meaning that we need to get these amino acids from our diet since our body cannot synthesize them like the nonessential ones. Some nonessential amino acids become conditional in times of high stress, illness, or injury.

The nine essential amino acids include:

  1. histidine
  2. isoleucine
  3. leucine
  4. lysine
  5. phenylalanine
  6. valine
  7. tryptophan
  8. threonine
  9. methionine

Complete vs. Complementary Proteins

A protein source is considered complete if it contains all nine essential amino acids. All animal proteins are complete, but plant-based eaters may need to be more mindful of pairing complementary proteins to get their full dose in. A common example of this is rice and beans, since the limiting amino acid in beans is methionine and rice contains methionine.

What does protein do for us besides build muscle?

The main function everyone thinks of for protein is MPS (muscle protein synthesis), but protein contributes much more to our health! Protein also regulates the following physiological processes:

How much protein is currently being consumed?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans of 2020-2025 suggest that 3/4 of the U.S. population consumes over the recommended amount of protein. However, nearly 90% do not eat enough fish (the recommendation is 2-3 times a week of 4 oz servings), and more than 50% do not consume enough nuts, seeds, and soy products. It is good to differentiate your diet in general, proteins included, since you receive various nutrients from each source and feed certain gut bacteria šŸ¦  with each food.

How much protein do I need?

The Average Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for protein is 10-35%. That’s a wide range. We can also reference the Recommended Dietary Allowance of 0.8-1.0g/kg. This is the lowest recommendation, for those are sedentary or lightly active. If you are moderately to highly active, you may want to aim for a bit higher, say 1.2-1.5g/kg. Serious or elite athletes are looking at anywhere between 1.5-2.0g/kg. A study was conducted in 2016 to determine the safety and efficacy of the 2.0g/kg dosage. It results in determining that this was safe & healthy for those who engage in intense exercise.

Those who are ill, injured, pregnant, breastfeeding, require increased intake of protein due to increased energy demands.

You can calculate your protein needs yourself or consult with me to determine if you are over- or underestimating. If you are underrating and are not getting enough protein, you may experience:

  • frequent hunger
  • fatigue
  • longer recovery time
  • increased anxiety
  • poor sleep
  • exacerbated depression
  • weakness
  • hair, skin and nail issues
  • compromised gut health

So, where can you get protein from?

Here are some quality food sources:

  • organic, grass-fed beef
  • wild-caught fish
  • shellfish
  • turkey or lean chicken
  • duck
  • lamb
  • pork
  • pasture-raised eggs
  • milk, yogurt, cheese
  • nuts & seeds
  • beans & legumes
  • soy foods, such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk and edamame
  • seitan
  • protein powders
  • protein bars

In conclusion, every individual is different in terms of needs, activity level, current medical status, etc. that influence their protein needs. You can simply calculate your needs with the guidelines above, but know that they may not be 100% accurate. Feel free to schedule a consultation HERE to determine your macronutrient needs.

How I Started My Nutrition Private Practice

Hi there! I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you are interested in starting your own nutrition private practice. The thought alone is exciting, but the extensive research and preparation that goes into starting your own business (and properly) is no joke, costly, and downright overwhelming. I am not here to sugar coat things, nor will I deter you from taking this route. I am simply providing you with the steps and resources I used to get started in the hopes of helping a fellow peer out. You can take it from here, and you best bet you’ll have my support and encouragement along the way too. šŸ˜‰ Please keep in mind that I am not a business pro, so all of the information below are things I came across on the interweb.

1.Decide on your business structure: a sole proprietorship vs LLC.

A sole proprietorship is any business where the owner is fully liable for their business. The business does not have to be registered by the state, and you are responsible for all facets (including absorbing business taxes along with personal ones). An LLC stands for Limited Liability Company, which partially protects the owner and their personal assets should bankruptcy occur. In addition, you are officially recognized as a business by your state, and taxes are filed separately from your personal ones. You can learn more about these frameworks here.

2. Reserve a business name or file for your sole proprietorship or LLC.

You can simply reserve a business name through your Secretary of State’s Office or file for a sole proprietorship or LLC here. To be honest, coming up with a business name was the most challenging part for me! Whichever you decide, I recommend doing more research to do determine which business framework is best for you, your business, your goals, and your situation. I personally filed for an LLC because I wanted to be officially recognized as a business from the get go, but this is a bit pricey up front. Filing took 2 1/2 weeks, but it can take up upwards of 4-6 weeks. This waiting period is good to be aware of since you want to wait for filing to be approved before taking on paying clients (for payment tracking and tax purposes).

3. Protect yourself with health professional insurance.

This component is also pricey, especially upfront, but you can also pay monthly with interest. Getting insured was an important and crucial step for me to protect myself as a health professional. After 4 years of working towards my credential, I refuse to put myself in any situation that someone can take it away from me. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to jeopardize your license either. You never know, so be smart and get insurance! I was set up via phone with HPSO.

4. Decide on a HIPPA-compliant platform if you plan on virtually counseling.

After weighing the pro’s and con’s of a few online platforms, I landed on Practice Better as a user friendly portal to communicate with my clients on and store their personal health information (PHI). Video chat is an option on here, so I didn’t have to pay extra for Zoom’s Healthcare Plan.

5. Set up a checking business account to properly track your earnings, expenses, and overall income.

I set my business account up through Bank of America, and then I linked that account to Stripe so I had a payment processor on Practice Better for clients to pay through.

6. Gather legal client forms and contracts (usually provided when you register your business) to have future clients sign before working together.

GovDoc provided these for me, but I also created a contract for clients to sign stating they would be obligated to pay the entire fee they signed up for, and prior to sessions. In addition, I created a 10-page comprehensive new client form on jotform.com.

7. Determine how you will track your finances.

I will be using Quickbooks to properly organize my income and have records for tax purposes. My brother-in-law (who is both an accountant and lawyer) and other business owners I’ve spoken with say this is the go-to service for this- as user-friendly as it gets.

8. Figure out how you are going to gain clients and market yourself.

I was already on Instagram and under the name Feed.Me.Happy on my WordPress blog here. While I was never consistent with posting due to school, my internship, and life in general, I still had a presence and reach to promote to. Figure out how you want to market yourself, and aim at being consistent! Streamlining your messaging and areas of specialties can also help attract your ideal clientele.

Okay, friends. That’s all I have for now. I hope this brief overview on how I started my very new business helped a bit. If you have further questions, I recommend doing your own research or consulting with a business coach or professional, even a lawyer for some parts.

Thank you for your understanding in me providing information this way. My time and energy is precious to me, especially with 3 jobs now, so it was easier to streamline this info here. Take care, and good luck if you choose to pursue this entrepreneurial route! And speaking of, join the Nutrition Entrepreneurs (NE) DPG group through the Academy for more valuable content and resources too!

Cranberry Apple Chutney

Cranberry sauce- people love it or hate it.. I personally do not like the overly sweet goop you find at the store, but that’s just me. I grew up with my family making cranberry relish, which is basically minced fresh cranberries, orange peels, and sugar. I adjusted this recipe to use less sugar over the years, and even substituted the cane sugar with honey (still sugar btw, just a different taste). I knew there was an opportunity to really elevate this side dish, so I took advantage this year to brainstorm on what that could be and look like. I came to the conclusion that cranberry chutney would offer complex flavors with less sugar while also remaining simple to whip up. It also highlights a cultural staple from India, but obviously utilizes different fruits, spices, etc. It’s always fun to infuse traditional American dishes with other ethnic foods. šŸ™‚

Here’s the recipe for those interested in trying it out this holiday season!

Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 10-15 minutes

Serving size: 1/3 cup Serves: 4 (Adjust ingredient measurements accordingly to serve more people)

Ingredients

  • 1 small shallot or 1/2 med-large
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 green apples
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 2 tsp ACV (apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water (you can start with 1/2 and add more later if you need it)
  • 2 Tbsp grated orange rind

Directions

  1. Mince shallot. Add 1/2 Tbsp olive oil to sautƩ pan over medium heat. Add shallot and sautƩ for 2 minutes.
  2. Add whole fresh cranberries and diced green apples.
  3. Add all spices, honey, orange juice, ACV, and water.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until most of the water evaporates and a sauce like consistency is formed.
  5. Cool before serving, which may be done the day of or stored in the refrigerator and served cold at a later time. It’s really personal preference.
  6. Upon serving, grate 2 Tbsp fresh orange peel/rind on top.

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

This is my all-time favorite fall recipe, as it’s a twist on a classic and serves as delicious comfort food. I used this original recipe from Larissa Another Day blog and put my own twist on it (along with J.P.’s influence). I’ve been making it every fall, at least 2-3 times per season, for the last 6 years now. The pumpkin puree and spices are very subtle, so they don’t alter the traditional chili flavor profile too much. If anything, they ADD creaminess and warmth to the dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Servings: 4

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 70 minutes

Total time: 75 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup bone broth
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, goat cheese (or another variety), chopped jalapeƱos, cilantro, green onions

Instructions

  1. Warm a large stock pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, followed by the chopped yellow onion. Toss to coat and cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Add ground turkey and spices. Cook for 6 more minutes, or until turkey is nearly cooked (but not all the way). Occasionally break up and stir.
  3. Add halved grape tomatoes (or can of diced tomatoes). Cook for 2 minutes, stirring as needed.
  4. Add the bone broth, kidney beans, pumpkin puree, and hot sauce. Stir until combined. Bring to a boil then simmer, covered, for 60 minutes.
  5. Serve 1 cup with toppings of choice (goat cheese is incredible!), then sprinkle with black pepper.
  6. Cozy up, put on a fall flick, and enjoy every bite!

Let me know what you think please! I value your feedback on my work and recipes, as I want to grow and adapt as needed. Thank you for the follow and read!

All my best, ā¤ Danielle

5 Nutrients That Support Your Menstrual Phase

Let me be clear. All nutrients are beneficial and serve their purpose at different times. I am also a big proponent of individualized nutrition based on what a person’s specific needs are. With that said, these 5 nutrients are my personal findings and round up of what can help most women with various symptoms during their menstrual phase.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that has been shown to reduce symptoms for both PMS and menopause. During your luteal and menstrual phases, a magnesium supplement, foods rich in magnesium, and even magnesium oil or lotion can help relax the smooth muscles of your uterus, decrease inflammatory prostaglandins (the hormone-like lipids that cause contractions and cramps), reduce headaches and breast tenderness, and even help curb sugar cravings.

In terms of hormonal balance, magnesium is needed for the production of TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, which is responsible for your body’s metabolism. In addition, it aids in blood sugar balance and estrogen detoxification. Women with PCOS are 19 times more likely to be magnesium-deficient, and those with diabetes or an autoimmune disease are also at high risk for deficiency.

Women want to aim for 400mg of magnesium per day.

Here are some food sources rich in magnesium:Ā 

  • pumpkin seeds
  • almonds
  • spinach
  • cashews
  • soymilk
  • black beans
  • edamame
  • dark chocolate

As for supplements, magnesium in the forms of aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride are more bioavailable and readily absorbed than magnesium oxide and sulfate. I was just recommended magnesium oil from Ancient Minerals and will report back after a few months of using it.

Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with bloating, uterine inflammation, migraines, and even mood swings. In a study of women with polycystic ovary syndrome and irregular periods, an omega 3 supplement was given at 3g/day for 8 weeks. This resulted in decreased elevated testosterone and androgen levels with a regulation of menses in the omega 3 group.

In another study, women took 1,000mg of fish oil/day. The experimental group reported less menstrual pain than the comparative group who took the pain reliever, ibuprofen.

Here are some food sources rich in omega-3s:Ā 

  • fish (salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel)
  • nuts and seeds
  • fortified foods (I have been using this Silk oat, almond, and pea milk blend infused with DHA omega-3s!)

Zinc

Supplementing with 30mg of zinc 1-3x daily during your luteal and menstrual phases can significantly reduce (if not manage or eradicate dysmenorrhea- period pain!). Zinc can also block androgen production, such as testosterone, which helps in treating acne and reducing excess facial hair.

Here are some food sources rich in zinc:Ā 

  • oysters
  • shellfish (crab and lobster)
  • red meat (I recommend organic, grass fed and pasture-raised)
  • legumes
  • nuts and seeds- especially pumpkin seeds!
  • eggs
  • whole grains

B vitamins, specifically B6 and B12

It’s a toss up between which B vitamin is more important to focus on. Both B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin) can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, which as we know can be rampant during our luteal and menstrual phases. Here are the main contributors of each.

B6 can help regulate periods, so if your cycle is irregular, I would recommend incorporating foods that contain more of this B vitamin. B6 also helps minimize bloating and has the ability to produce amino acids, which is needed more during your bleed for replenishment and to avoid muscle catabolism.

Here are some food sources rich in B6:Ā 

  • pork.
  • poultry, such asĀ chickenĀ or turkey
  • some fish (cod, salmon, halibut, trout, tuna and snapper)
  • peanuts
  • soyĀ beans
  • wheatgerm
  • oats
  • bananas

B12 largely contributes to red blood cell formation, which is also crucial during this time.Since we are losing blood and iron, new red blood cells are needed to help carry oxygen throughout the body and keep energy levels high.

Here are some food sources rich in B12:Ā 

  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • eggs milk

Iron

Last but not least is iron. About 70% of our body’s iron is found in red blood cells. When we bleed during menses, we lose blood and, therefore, red blood cells and iron. It is important to replenish this mineral, as to avoid iron depletion or anemia. Women need approximately 1.8 mg of iron/day. If you donate blood, you lose about 200 mg of iron, and those breastfeeding and postpartum can lose up to 700 mg. Breastfeeding mamas need to increase their iron intake by 0.5-1mg/day.

P.S. Iron is better absorbed in the company of vitamin C, so add peppers, citrus juice, broccoli or tomatoes to your meals with iron-containing foods. Using iron pots can also increase iron levels! We only absorbed 10-30% of iron, so keep that in mind when measuring and accounting for your food.Ā 

Here are some food sources rich in iron:Ā 

  • lean beef
  • veal
  • poultry
  • pork
  • lamb
  • liver
  • fish and shellfish
  • greens
  • tofu
  • lima beans
  • legumes and lentils

Summary

Upping your nutrient consumption game is a great strategy in preventing or treating PMS and menstrual symptoms. From the abundance of research I’ve been doing lately on women’s health (specifically nutrition and phases of the cycle), I found magnesium, omega 3s, zinc, B vitamins (B6 + B12), and iron to be some of the most crucial in alleviating unwanted cramps, headaches, lethargy, acne and more while also replenishing the body with the fuel it needs to process and recover best.

If you have basic nutrition questions, I can answer those for you, but hang on tight for when I become licensed in February to better serve your personal needs. Xo Danielle

Disclaimer:Ā TheĀ medical/healthĀ information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind ofĀ medical/healthĀ advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITEĀ OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATIONĀ IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

How to Start Cycle Syncing

I discussed what cycle syncing was in my last post, but now I’m sure you’re wondering how to get started. Here are my top 5 tips on how to live according to your cycle without overcomplicating things.

  1. Read Alisa Vitti’s “In the Flo” book. This book is what sparked my interest in women’s health and biohacking your hormones .It’s a fairly easy read and account of how women are neglected in terms of diet and exercise advice compared to men (which many studies are based on). *hard eye roll*
  2. Take up seed cycling.Ā Seed cycling is eating sunflower seeds and sesame seeds during your luteal and menstrual phases (the week before and of your period) and eating pumpkin and flax seeds during your follicular and ovulatory phases. These seeds contain phytoestrogens and other specific micronutrients that support your hormones during these phases. It is recommended to eat these seeds raw and to consume 1-2 Tbsp/day. *more on this in an upcoming post
  3. Exercise according to each phase.
    • Follicular phase: cardio
    • Ovulatory phase: HIIT, weight lifting, circuits
    • Luteal phase: pilates, yoga
    • Menstruation: walking, restorative yoga (Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube has a killer Yoga for Women sequence that helps ease cramps!)

*Each phase fluctuates in estrogen and progesterone levels, ultimately providing different levels of energy. This guide can help you give your body the grace and movement it thrives off of during each phase. Note: afternoon workouts are best as to avoid spiking cortisol levels.

4.Ā Eat more whole foods in general. If you read “In the Flo”, you’ll notice that nearly all of the foods recommended are whole foods. Whole foods contain more fiber, active enzymes, antioxidants, and micronutrients that support your reproductive and overall health. Aim to consume 2-3 fruits per day and 3-4 veggies/day, along with whole food proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. *Those with PCOS or endometriosis should consult with a Registered Dietitian to set up a plan specific to their needs.

5. Eat or drink 1 fermented food per day!Ā Good gut health impacts nearly every other bodily system. 80% of our immune cells are found within the GI tract. Eating healthy fats can result in glowing skin for our integumentary system, and a diverse microbiome encourages regular bowel movements. The list goes on and on. In relation to reproductive health, when gut health is rich in diversity, the estorbolome (what regulates estrogen) is also balanced and can maintain normal levels of this sex hormone. If the estrobolome is disrupted with dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) and inflammation, it strains its efficiency to maintain estrogen homeostasis.

Summary

Cycle syncing can be as simple or complex as you make it. I started out with these 5 changes listed above before diving into eating specific foods for each phase. With the stresses of everyday life, it can be difficult to take on new challenges and create new habits. Believe me, I know. Take on what amount is right for you, and remember, small changes add up!

What questions do you have? Leave a comment or message me on Instagram to discuss if you’d like. Happy syncing!

An Intro to Cycle Syncing

Hello! I realize that while I introduced cycle syncing on my Instagram account, I have yet to dedicate an entire post to it on my blog. For those of you who are not familiar, cycle syncing is coordinating your diet, exercise, and other lifestyle regimens along with your menstrual cycle and its 4 phase components (follicular, ovulatory, luteal, and menstrual). The idea is to “balance” your hormones in order to create homeostasis throughout your body, lessen unfavorable side effects (such as mood swings, cramps, headaches, etc.), and optimize your energy and potential!

Did you know that hormones affect more than just your reproductive system? Hormones are what control our appetite, metabolism, blood sugar, blood pressure, and many other bodily functions. They are essentially chemical messengers that activate other activities within the body, which is why it is so important for them to be produced and secreted within their appropriate levels. Diet and exercise can help with this, hence, cycle syncing.

“Cycle syncing” is a term that was coined by Alisa Vitti, author of Woman Code and In the Flo. She is a functional nutritionist, Holistic Health Counselor (HHC), and member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP). In other words, she knows her stuff. Alisa is the founder of FLOLiving and runs a virtual practice. She, in conjunction with other women’s health practitioners, have initiated this liberation and revolution of women speaking freely and openly about their cycles and hormones. We should be encouraging one another to live in sync with our bodies and cycles.

Does cycle syncing work?

While there are no specific studies on cycle syncing as a cohesive practice, eating specific foods and altering the type of exercises done in accordance with your menstrual phases has shown promising results. For example, ground and raw flaxseed meal contains phytoestrogens that have shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer due to its mild estrogenic effects. In addition, multiple studies have been done in relation to exercise and the menstrual cycle. While there are not always significant differences between phases, the mid-luteal (the week leading up to your period) has displayed a decrease in performance in the heat among athletes.

The short of it is that cycle syncing is still being researched as a tried and true practice; However, a healthy and balanced diet along with a change in various exercises isn’t going to harm anyone in the meantime. With that said, please work with a professional while changing your diet if you have a medical condition or if you are looking to lose weight or balance your hormones.

I hope you enjoyed this quick snippet of an intro on cycle syncing! Stay tune for detailed info on my next post “Cycle Syncing 101”.

The Vanishing Period

This is the story of losing and regaining my period. I am sharing this tale in the hopes that my story will resonate with a friend or follower who currently doesn’t experience her monthly bleed. I challenge that woman to take an interest in reclaiming that power and health. You can also read along if you’re simply interested, for whatever reason. šŸ˜‰

The Beginning

My first “visit” arrived in the 5th or 6th grade. I really can’t pinpoint my age, but I do remember calling for my mom from the bathroom while still sitting on the toilet. “Mom, I got my period!”. She entered the room, looked at me sympathetically and said, “Okay, no big deal!”, then handed me a pad. I know she was just trying to make me feel comfortable, but I couldn’t help feeling awkward and unsure about becoming a “woman”. Little did I know I wouldn’t become a “woman” again until I was nearly 30…

The Vanishing

As far as I remember, I had normal, light periods throughout junior high and high school. Although, I’d be surprised if I didn’t experience anovulation (sporadic missed periods due to not ovulating) here and there. Fast forward to late college though- I’m managing a salon, attending classes full-time, and paying private out-of-pocket tuition all by myself. I wasn’t sleeping well, maybe 4-5 hours a night at best. On top of all of this, I was barely eating. I recall going through a phase of only consuming 1 plain packet of oatmeal for breakfast (made with water), working a 12 hour shift, then maybe having a snack before bed. I was starved and stressed, and so was my reproductive system (the last thing on my mind at the time).

This chronic stress caused me to develop hypothalamic amenorrhea (the absence of your period for 3+ months due to hypothalamus insufficiencies). I didn’t think much about my missing period. Heck, I thought it was kind of awesome not getting one in my early 20s. I didn’t have to buy tampons, so I saved money there. I also escaped the monthly woes of the dreaded bleed, including mood swings, cramps, breakouts, cravings, etc. Bonus points for not having to worry about it interfering with sex! Hey-o! Not getting a period was great, or so I thought.

A Story Within a Story

I met my husband in the winter of 2011. We did long distance from Chicago to Nashville for about a year, and then I moved to Tennessee to be with him. In the following years, I started training for marathons. Boy did I love running and the stress release it provided. In fact, I still do. When training for and running my first marathon, I could barely finish due to under fueling. I was incredibly tired and drained. Plus, my recovery was killer from the lack of nutrients and depletion. I’m actually shocked I didn’t injure myself that first training cycle, especially because amenorrhea can have adverse effects on bone density (something I wasn’t aware of or cared about at the time).

As my training and experience progressed throughout my 9 marathon training cycles, I came to realize that I was not going to get faster without proper fueling. This realization, a couple of injuries, and the desire to recover from my eating disorder made me dive deep into nutrition research, Ā purchase my favorite “Run Fast. Eat Slow.” cookbook, and it even inspired me to major in nutrition & dietetics! šŸ™‚

I proceeded to learn how to properly fuel my body and ALL of its systems with what it needs- macro + micronutrient- wise. I gained a bit of weight, and guess what? I ran my fastest race and qualified for the Boston Marathon! In April 2019, I PRed at Boston with a 3:21.. Do you know what else? I had regained my period a couple of years prior leading up to that, which I attribute to my bone health, injury prevention, hormonal balance, increased energy levels, a quicker recovery time and improved athletic performance. Regaining my period was a blessing in disguise, and I never take its presence for granted now. Here’s more info on Why You Shouldn’t Dread Your Period, and to even embrace it for what it’s doing for you, your overall health, and your ability to conceive if you so wish.

The Takeaway

What I have learned from my hypothalamic amenorrhea was that just because it didn’t appear to be doing damage, the absence of a period can cause long-term health consequences. These consequences include, but are not limited to: infertility, osteopenia or osteoporosis, thyroid issues, adrenal disorders, PCOS, and hormonal imbalances. I was lucky that my running injuries were fairly minor and that I didn’t suffer any stress fractures. The plan is to get a DEXA scan to check my bone density. I’m hoping there is no serious damage or signs of onset osteopenia/osteoporosis.

While amenorrhea occurs naturally while pregnant and breastfeeding, it should be taken seriously as a health concern when caused by an eating disorder, extreme exercise, being underweight, medications, stress, and sometimes birth control (among other causes). Many OBGYNs claim that there is nothing wrong with the absence of a period while on birth control, but I strongly suggest that you educate yourself on how birth control works and what that means for your body. For example, hormonal birth control suppresses ovulation (an entire phase of your cycle) and therefore induces a “withdrawal bleed” during your placebo week. In other words, you are not getting a real period on birth control. This is something to think about.

My last message about amenorrhea is to not take it lightly like I did in my early 20s. Having the mentality that you are saving money on sanitary products, avoiding period symptoms, and changing the game with your lifestyle and sex schedule can be detrimental and negligent to your long-term health. I know it is difficult to adopt a new perspective after learning new information, but I promise you it’s worth the investment in yourself and your health. If anything, do me a favor and educate yourself, continue to learn, then make changes that are right for you and your body.

Please feel free to reach out without questions regarding amenorrhea, and check out my previous post, “I Don’t Have a Period. Now What?“.

 

Disclaimer: TheĀ medical/healthĀ information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind ofĀ medical/healthĀ advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITEĀ OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATIONĀ IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

 

All About Birth Control

There is more buzz than ever about whether or not birth control is our best friend or worst enemy. Instead of taking advice from general blanket statements or a social media influencer with no credentials whatsoever, let’s take a step back to reevaluate. I am going to do my best with writing an unbiased, factual article about the pros & cons of birth control and whether or not it may be right for YOU. Remember, you are the ultimate decision-maker of and advocate for your own health and its fate.

The History of The Pill

The pill, also known as oral contraceptive, was released in May of 1950. When it was made available, it was illegal for physicians to prescribe it for pregnancy prevention and chalked it up to helping regulate menstruation and “cycle control”. Crazy right? Ā Oh, and you also had to be married to avoid promiscuity. *smh* It wasn’t until the late 60s/early 70s that birth control (bc) was marketed and prescribed as a contraceptive.Ā¹

The pill revolutionized how women perceived and approached sex, as they had more freedom to engage in intercourse with more reliable preventative measures. This isn’t to say that you can’t get pregnant while on the pill, because you can, but the chances are slim to none if you take it routinely. The pill is 99% effective in preventing pregnancies when taken everyday at the same time. This number drops to 91% when a pill or more is missed, resulting in 9 out of 100 women getting pregnant this way a year.Ā²

How it Works

Birth control releases hormones into your bloodstream, ultimately preventing an egg from being released from your ovaries. This process is called ovulation, and it is essential for pregnancy to occur. This means your menstrual bleed on the pill is truly not a period because your body doesn’t experience ovulation. It is simply the shedding of your uterine wall lining due to a dip in hormones during your placebo week.Ā³

The Pill’s Contents

So, there are a variety of brands with different levels of hormones present. The most common form contains both estrogen and progestin (hormones that are inversely correlated and counteract one another). Another form contains just progestin. This type of “mini” pill is for women who experience side effects with estrogen dosing.Ā³

Other Forms of BC

  1. The pill. We’ve already discussed this common form of bc. You take the pill everyday, with one week being a set of placebo pills (they do not contain hormones) that call forth your “menstrual bleed” from a significant decrease in hormones.
  2. The shot. Administered by your doctor every 3 months, the shot (aka Depo-Provera) injects a front load of progestin.ā“ Women like receiving the shot every 3 months for convenience. A perk is that it does not contain estrogen. Two downsides of receiving the shot are an increased risk of osteoporosis due to lower bone density and infertility for up to 10 months after receiving your last injection.āµ
  3. The patch. The patch is worn for 21 days then taken off to trigger a “menstrual bleed”. It releases estrogen and progestin in small doses and is 91% effective in preventing pregnancy.ā¶
  4. The ring. TheĀ Nuvaring is a flexible ring inserted in the vaginal canal. It stays there for 21 days, slowly releasing both estrogen and progestin. When you remove it at day 21, well you know by now- you initiate a bleed. The ring can fall out at different times, including sex, so you must be careful. It is 91% effective in preventing pregnancy when it is used correctly.ā·
  5. Condoms, diaphragms, sponges, and cervical caps.Ā These options are all physically and hormone-free options for birth control. Most of us are familiar with condoms and the fact that they can tear. Diaphragms, sponges, and cervical caps are all used by females and inserted in the vaginal canal to block sperm from entering the fallopian tubes.
  6. Intrauterine Devices (IUDs). IUDs come in two forms: copper and hormonal. The hormonal version releases progestin and consists of the brands Mirena, Liletta, Skyla, and ParaGard. Both are inserted in the uterus through the cervix by a medical professional. Insertion complications can occur, including cramping, rejection (the IUD coming out), along with pain. However, women opt for this option because of its convenience, low maintenance, longevity (ranges from 3-10 years), effectiveness (99.8% effective!), and being able to have it while breastfeeding. The turn around for getting pregnant if one so wishes is fairly quick too.
  7. Natural Rhythmic Method.Ā This method is tracking your cycle to determine when you are ovulating. A few days leading up to, during, and after ovulation are when you can get pregnant. A home fertility test can help affirm this.
  8. Sterilization.Ā An extreme form of birth control is sterilization. This is when women get their fallopian tubes tied to prevent sperm from swimming upstream to fertilize an egg. For men, this means a vasectomy, a minor surgery that blocks sperm as well. Both procedures can be revisable, depending on the approach and method done, but it can be expensive, painful, and unreliable.āø

The Pros of Hormonal Birth Control

  1. It can help regulate your period.
  2. It can alleviate cramping, PMS, PMDD, and other menstrual symptoms.
  3. It can clear up acne.
  4. It decreases your risk of developing uterine cancer.
  5. It helps manage endometriosis.
  6. It can reduce the risk of anemia.ā¹

The Cons of Hormonal Birth Control

  1. You are not experiencing a true menstrual bleed. The hormones in birth control prevent ovulation, an entire phase of the menstrual cycle. Reference “Why You Shouldn’t Dread Your Period” post.
  2. It may cause amenorrhea, absence of a bleed altogether.
  3. It may cause hormonal imbalances.
  4. It increases your risk of blood clots.
  5. It increases risk of cardiovascular disease complications.Ā¹ā°

Risk Factors

According to Mayo Clinic, risk factors/contraindications for taking birth control include if you:

  1. “Are a smoker age 35 or older
  2. Have just given birth
  3. Have a blood-clotting disorder, uncontrolled high blood pressure, certain heart or blood vessel problems, breast cancer, certain liver problems, gallbladder disease, migraines with aura, lupus, prolonged diabetes or complications from diabetes”Ā¹ā°

*I also feel obligated to note that birth control does not protect you against STDs.

Summary Ā 

So there you have it- a concise overview of all things birth control. We covered the pill’s history and makeup, your options of bc, and its pros and cons. I hope I delivered the unbiased facts for all of you women and did you justice in terms of feeling empowered and knowledgeable. My aim is to feed you science-base information so you can make the best decisions for you, your body, and your health. I am here as support along the way, and can offer my counseling services next spring to help you feel and function optimally. Be well! Xo Danielle

Disclaimer: TheĀ medical/healthĀ information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind ofĀ medical/healthĀ advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITEĀ OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATIONĀ IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Resources

1.Liao, P., & Dollin, J. (2012, December). Half a century of the oral contraceptive pill: Historical review and view to the future. Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3520685/

2. Parenthood, P. (n.d.). What is the Effectiveness of Birth Control Pills? Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-pill/how-effective-is-the-birth-control-pill

3. Birth control pills: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007460.htm

4. 18th, A. (n.d.). Birth-Control-Depo-Provera-vs-Patch Archives. Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://www.cdlsusa.org/ask-the-expert/birth-control-depo-provera-vs-patch/

5.Ā Holland, K. (1982, October 27). Birth Control Pill vs. Birth Control Shot: Pros and Cons. Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/birth-control/birth-control-pill-vs-shot

6. Birth control patch. (2019, January 26). Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/birth-control-patch/about/pac-20384553

7.Ā Team, T. (2068, May 30). Vaginal Ring for Birth Control. Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/birth-control-vaginal-ring

8. What birth control method is right for you? (2019, February 14). Retrieved August 05, 2020, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/birth-control-methods

9. Osborn, C. (2037, June 25). Benefits of Birth Control: 10 Advantages Beyond Preventing Pregnancy. Retrieved August 06, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/birth-control-benefits

10. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/birth-control/expert-answers/birth-control-pills/faq-20058110